At Work: What’s a Woman to Wear?
Two stories and a moral.
The National Law Journal recently reported on a bar association panel of judges lamenting the dress of lawyers: “Federal Judges Grouse about Attorneys’ Courtroom Attire.” After U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow mentioned that she thought some women attorneys should pay more attention to dressing appropriately for court, a fellow male judge panelist described women attorneys who wear “skirts so short that there’s no way they can sit down and blouses so short there’s no way the judges wouldn’t look.” Speaking from the audience, another male judge said that sometimes he wishes he could tell the female lawyer standing before him: “I’d really like to pay attention to your argument.”
Several years ago a young lawyer found herself repeatedly and inexplicably unsuccessful with a particular judge in administrative matters. She shared this with an older colleague, who suggested that she wear a modest skirt instead of the usual pantsuit. She tried it, and it worked. Her appearances in front of that judge are now a slam-dunk.
The moral of the two stories is:
Don’t ask: “What shall I wear?”
Instead, ask: “What impression do I want to make and what result do I want to achieve?
(Read more do’s and don’ts for professional women.)